Flow Blog

‘Intercourse’ event (love that title!) – “I’m not sitting at the front” last weekend. It was in the Elbow Room in Cardiff.

I really enjoyed the ‘Intercourse’ event (love that title!) – “I’m not sitting at the front” last weekend. It made me think – a lot.

The focus was participatory visual arts practice and involved great talks by Gill Nicol and Sophie Hope, interspersed with actions created by artists, which, as a member of the audience, I participated in.

I sat at the front.

There was quite a lot of writing going on, writing stories, writing lists, writing postits. And stickers. Stickers were distributed to categorize us, as a means of creating roles that, if one wished, could be subverted. But few did so. We listened quite a lot too. Sometimes I felt I was being instructed and directed, I complied rather than participated. On reflection, I find myself wondering about where the participatory element was.

By my very presence, was it assumed that I would passively do as I was told?

Was the purpose to antagonize?

Or stimulate a response?

Were we expected to intervene?

There were instructions, but in many ways we were all passive and politely conformed to the traditions we are familiar with – that of speaker and listener. The rules were unstated, because we already knew them, the context provided them.

Emma read lists

Paul made lists

I made lists

My lists were in response to their lists

This is a list

When I contemplated writing this, I was going to share my lists with you. But I decided not to. The Flow Contemporary arts logo implies bi-directional movement – exchange, reciprocity, true partnership working. That is important to me. I make no call to action. I seek dialogue, resolution and harmony, not antagonism. Might this be an age thing?

photo of Emma Gee, by me……during our silent walk through Cardiff


Flow likes a challenge, but what does Flow do? who do we work with? where do we do it?

I realised that whilst I’ve been busy having meetings, making plans and thinking forward, I haven’t really shared on my website what I actually DO. Typical, one gets busy doing and forgets to spread the word. And what is my ‘normal’ may not be yours! So here goes, in a nutshell, this is what I/Flow does:

Flow specialises in producing visual arts projects in partnership with major stakeholders, presenting new art in unusual places. Think artworks on beaches, exhibitions in Coastwatch buildings, films in historic stone barns on coastpaths, soundworks emanating from industrial cranes (having a conversation!), performance artists concealed under bridges, casts of quarry walls in forests – anything is possible outside the constraints of the gallery walls.

We work with acoustic specialists, geologists, archaeologists, zoologists, foresters and librarians – opening up visual art to new audiences and innovative ways of perceiving the world around us.

Flow has two key areas of delivery – FCA Projects initiates and delivers scattered-site visual art projects in non-gallery locations with partners, and FCA Advice supports others to do so – either by mentoring artists at ground-level, or by guiding organisations in the processes necessary to develop sound partnerships. Everything Flow does is about collaboration and dialogue and research is at the core of what we do.

We specialise in working with both art and non-art partners to achieve this and can provide a bespoke team to respond to particular requirements of any project. We also have experience of touring, working with strategic partners to tour both existing and newly commissioned contemporary visual artworks. For example, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England, we’re presently in consultation with the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Canal & River Trust about a touring programme, which will begin with a  period of action research.

We’re always on the lookout for new partners – current conversations include talking with an ethnozoologist; digital locative media producers; land-management organisations, Community Libraries and a writer whose subject area is technobiophilia. We love a challenge!

Artist crowd sourcing to pay for her show at venice bienniale. Fab work for sale!

I don’t normally promote the work of an artist on here, but Elpida’s work is so beautiful and unusual I want to gain your attention. Elpida is being resourceful by selling limited edition prints to help her finance new work for Venice.

And they are stunning. I confess I bought one immediately!

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva is offering an unique opportunity to purchase limited edition prints of archival quality. All proceeds will go towards developing her project, Silentio Pathologia, for the Republic of Macedonia Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. All prints will be signed and editioned by her…..

If interested please Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ElpidaHadziVasileva
or email elpi@elpihv.co.uk


it’s all about being in the arena, if you don’t step forward there is nothing to be gained- daring greatly

Last week there was a glitch on my other website with the link to Flow. It’s ok now so I thought I’d share, and expand upon, a post from that site too.

Friday was a good day, indeed last week was a good week. It’s really fulfilling having so many fascinating conversations with people about future projects. Of course funding is not easy these days, but that shouldn’t stop the passion driving things along……..

One of my biggest inspirations lately is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. If you don’t know about her look her up, she is someone who can help you remember that if you don’t take creative risks you will always be missing something in your life. I’m not religious myself, though she is, but that doesn’t matter – it’s believing in the possibility of possibility that matters.

The title came from a speech by Roosevelt [my brackets]:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man [woman] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself [herself] for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he  [she] fails, at least he [she] fails while daring greatly, so that his [her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Another inspiration is Seth Godin – his strapline ‘GO make something happen’ says it all. So step into the arena, dare greatly, make things happen!

2 blogs today! @milleniumart are showing Mat Chivers work, including ExLab ‘Overlay’

It feels like an ExLab day today!

chivers-overlay-and-1-woman-by-andy-whale Overlay by Mat Chivers, photo by Andy Whale

This weekend sees Mat Chivers show opening  at the Millenium Gallery in St. Ives. As well as being Producer for ExLab, I also supported Mat as his Commission Manager, which was  a pleasure to do. Mat hails from a sculpture background and is as comfortable with stone carving as he is with exploring contemporary processes, such as rapid prototype imaging.

Mat’s commission was supported by the Purbeck National Trust team, as part of the wider, UK programme of National Trust contemporary art – Trust New Art.

We want to create unforgettable experiences for our visitors to National Trust places. We will only support art projects that enhance the our places and the stories that are found there. We are prepared to challenge people and their expectations – and we want to know what you think.

There’s a video about New Trust Art here and they also commissioned one specifically about Mat’s work, Overlay, in Purbeck, which you can watch here.

The outcome was Overlay – a film made from a boat just off the coast of Purbeck, looking back towards the cliffs that were fractured when tectonic plates collided millions of years ago.

What’s unique about these projects are the people you meet and the audiences that see the work. We worked alongside National Trust, earth scientists from the Jurassic Coast WHO, a tenant farmer who allowed us to use Spyway Barn, a boat-trip company Poole Sea Safari, local contractors and Trust volunteers.

And the audiences? I wish I had some photos – people in wetsuits on their way to  and from the cliff path. Dog walkers, ramblers, school groups doing orienteering, rock climbers, kayakers, a fantastic mix of people who are unlikely be popping into the Tate!

Creative Conversations – Carolyn Black talking with Joe Stevens about producing ExLab

Overlay by Mat Chivers photo Pete Millson

Last year I worked for Big Picture in Dorset as their Producer for the Exploratory Laboratory (ExLab) project. It was a whirlwind experience that left me reeling with tiredness afterwards, which was when I agreed to do an interview with Joe Stevens, a Dorset artist, for his collection of Creative Conversations. Joe is really pleased Soundart Radio have also picked up on his artists in conversation series:

My new series of ‘Creative Conversations’ shows has been picked up by Soundart Radio 102.5 FM. This is an independent radio station based in Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon. Broadcast every Friday at 6pm.

It is great to be a part of Soundart Radio, as they, like these shows, is part of the movement towards the local and the global existing together. The radio station is very community focussed and welcomes everyone to make imaginative, innovative radio programmes. It is great to think that people in Devon are listening to the experiences of local artists and art groups from West Dorset. That the issues that face us here can resonante with the people in the neighbouring county.

Joe had interviewed others a year before, and talked with them about the upcoming Cultural Olympiad programme, asking them what they expected it to be like. There was a huge sense of anticipation about it in Dorset, indeed in London too, but also a sense of the unknown. It would need local authorities to batten down the hatches against gridlock on roads, a dedicated infrastructure to be put in place and a lot of careful planning and security.

The Sailing events were a great success, as was the Maritime Mix programme (the Dorset offer of associated arts activity for London 2012.) But visitor numbers were lower than anticipated and the regular holiday visitors stayed away.

It is fair to say that all organisations had to take the attitude of ‘there’s a hurricane a-coming’, only to find that not only was the storm a mild one, but also many people stayed in their homes, expecting the worst. Indeed the weather was fantastic! The roads approaching Weymouth were often empty, parking was easy most of the time.

I want to emphasise that this was no-ones fault, with the best will in the world, you can’t accurately predict human behavior.

So back to the interview, which you can listen to here. ExLab was a brilliant project and received excellent feedback from visitors who ventured out to see the artworks around the county. The collaboration between the Big Picture member organisations: Artsreach, Bridport Arts Centre, DVA, Sherborne House arts, Walford Mill Crafts, PVA Medialab (now diva Contemporary) and b-side, worked well, especially considering the geographic distance. (I apologise here for banging on about travel distances in the interview – I was very tired).

Big Picture are compiling a document that will show the project in its true glory – photographs of the artworks, comments from visitors, artists and scientists. It tells the Exploratory Laboratory story from its inception until now. And hopefully, in another year or two, there will be another project, and another update, as it is a good model of practice. We all learnt a lot and it is only by doing that we truly learn, and with that accrued knowledge move forward.

last month Free for Feb, this month it’s #internationalwomensday 2 free artist mentor sessions


Last month on Friday 1st February I launched Flow Advice by offering a huge TWELVE half-hour mentoring session to artists. All slots were taken and feedback tells me well received. So thanks to everyone for participating and I hope we talk again soon.

This month, launching on Friday 1st March, I want to do it again (but smaller – that was a big commitment!), but with a focus on mentoring women artists to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March. Maybe it is because my daughter suggested I should do it.  Maybe it was my going through old artworks of mine last week and unearthing a commissioned video from years ago, for which I interviewed Bristol women from many cultural background to identify similarities, has been on my mind. Whatever the reason, I think its a good idea.

When I made that film in 2001 I believe my daughter was about 15 years old. Brilliant to see now that, as a fantastic  woman who has studied human rights, she has adopted feminism into her life  in the same way she has good food and enjoying art. I guess it was just part of everyday life.

So the free sessions for March are to celebrate International Womens Day and will be for women only. There will be only 2 sessions this month, each half an hour, so you need to book in quickly. The same system as last month, please complete the preliminary survey, so I have some understanding of what you do and what you would like to discuss.

And off we go!!!


transdisciplinary practice, when 2 different worlds collide, play can begin

I feel slightly embarrassed about using a film about cuddly animals and a fairground soundtrack to broach the subject of transdisciplinary practice, but I have to say it illustrates partnership working between genres rather well. As we all know, art is often grounded in the concept of play, which liberates us to explore new ways of working and operating. We often find ourselves shoe-horned into a niche, and once there, it can be tricky to step out into other worlds, and we get trapped inside our own rooms. It’s quite comfortable in htere – after all – we know the rules of our own area of specialism, we are networked, and familiar with the languages we use to communicate.

But what happens if we step outside, slam the door and go and knock on a strangers door? Can it work? Will our creativity be subsumed by the knowledge of the other? Will we be able to communicate? Neither children or other young animals worry about these things. Then when they grow up, they begin to be sensitive of difference.

Picasso strove to return to a childs viewpoint in his work, as did many others. Paul Klee talked of taking a line for a walk. As adults, when we work with non-art partners, we ar eopen to the possibility of re-engaging with the pleasures and surprises of playing with others who have different ideas. And benefit from it enormously.

So apologies for the frivolous movie, but it did inspire me to write, which is always a good thing. I hope.

Poet Kate Fox summarises open space session on diversity. @thinkingpractice blog

Mark Robinson recently spoke at a session about resilience and diversity in arts practice at the Baltic.

Read the Thinking Practice blog for the full story, it raises some very important questions about resilient practice and considers why artists and arts organisations might, or might not, ascribe to partnership working. The poem used to summarise the event, by Kate Fox, uses brilliant metaphors about packing your case without knowing where you’re going; being willing to change clothes with others; the delights of buzzing around and irritating people, and the proposition that a swarm of mosquitoes might be needed to effect change. And moving outside your comfort zone to work with people outside the arts.

I truly believe that travelling/working with non-arts partners is an inspirational journey, crossing or ignoring boundaries, exploring the terrain and talking to people on the way is important.

I’d be happy to be in the swarm, would you?